DDAPS Carp Fishing History
by Steve Butler
There is a fair argument to say that the history of both DDAPS and Carp fishing are intertwined. Indeed if you look at the leading lights of 60s and 70s Carp fishing there is a common thread which brings you back to Kent and especially to Brooklands in Dartford.
As a young teenager with my bell bottoms and feather cut I would walk around Brooklands with my match rod and reel and a half pint of maggots probably annoying the hell out of guys who, although I didn’t realise at the time, were laying down the foundations of the sport we know and love today.
Coming forward to 1976, and having left school, fishing became more of a passion and my love for Carp fishing, and all that went with it, really sprung to life. I can remember walking around Brooklands watching these older guys fishing and wondering what these strange paste baits they were using were made of. So I did what most nosey kids do and asked. To a man these anglers would shoot a look that killed and suggested I minded my own business and ‘went away’.
Brooklands in those days was a busy fishery and in the days leading up to the 16th June cars would arrive disgorging anglers and equipment on to the bank. Yes I do mean days. Back then swims would be occupied 3 or 4 days prior to the beginning of the season and men would sit oblivious to what was going on around them. There are occasions where swims would be occupied AND an angler would be sat behind waiting for the first angler to vacate at some unknown future date.
Tackle in those days was a lot more basic than now (and a lot cheaper). My first rods were a Tag Barnes rod (for piking I think) a Gerry Savage Rod, both ten foot and about 13/4 lb test curve and 2 Mitchell reels (324s I think). There were no ready made Bivvies as such. The more trend setting anglers bought a piece of canvas which was simply thrown over a normal 45 inch brolly to make a kind of shelter. Bedchairs were simply sun loungers and the army surplus stores supplied rucksacks and sleeping bags as well as many of the items of clothing that were worn. Indicators were either pieces of silver foil or those clip tops from Fairy Liquid bottles. The rods were simply put on banksticks.
Brooklands was now awash with Carp Anglers, the boom had started and the number of baits was increasing. Mainstays of the bait world at this stage were maggots, corn, par boiled spuds, good old crust and bread and some evil smelling pastes that were made up of all sorts of strange ingredients. Walking round the banks resulted in many bait boxes being snapped shut as the secret squirrel element crept in. However what none of knew was that a certain Fred Wilton was a number of steps ahead of us already. Fred had fished Brooklands on a number of occasions prior to the boom starting with his new fangled HNV baits. There is no records now of what he caught but rumours abound of what came out to his new fangled techniques. However bear in mind that Carp sizes then bear no comparisons to what we catch, or try to catch, today. In the 60s and 70s a fish of double figures created a crowd of eager viewers and I can remember, very clearly, a 17lb mirror being caught out of the car park swim at Brooklands, the angler removing the hook and hurling the bait into the bushes so nobody could see. He was then left alone begging for someone to take pictures whilst the crowd had descended into the bushes to find what had caught the fish.
The most popular swims at Brooklands for Carp were the A2 bank, the Texas Bay (now Homebase!) and the Car Park swim, which was a lazy angler’s paradise. These swims would be constantly in use from the 16th June to about October when, according to the experts, Carp shut up shop and went to sleep for winter. It was only into the late 70s and early 80s that you begun to see fool hardy anglers on the banks into November and December, oh how we laughed at them.
At this stage of proceedings Carp fever had spread and the Darenth Valley, including Brooklands, were becoming mecca's for Carp anglers. Brooklands, Sutton at Hone, Horton Kirby and the Darenth complex were becoming extremely popular with Anglers travelling from all over the country, yes even from Essex, to fish these waters. Strange accents now littered the banks and Kent anglers became very protective about their waters. DDAPS were in prime position to take advantage of this boom having three of the aforementioned waters under their protection. The club secretary was struggling under the sheer volume of applications to join as were Leisure Sport who, at the time, ran Darenth.
Therefore DDAPS made the decision, along with Dartford Borough Council, to keep Brooklands a day ticket water and the income from these tickets, alone, swelled the club’s coffers considerably.
However with popularity comes problems and the sheer volume of anglers on the bank meant that litter, noise and arguments became an issue. Night fishing was permitted at Brooklands for adult anglers and some summer nights saw a 100% turn out on the bank with only the ‘noddy’ swims available. At the time the surroundings of Brooklands were different to today’s water. There were no houses around Texas Bay and the Powder Mill Lane was taken up by what remained of a factory long deserted and only used by local scallywags. As Carp fishing fever took hold more waters began to crop up and anglers began to look for lakes with less fishing pressure, less kids and more peace and quiet.
Into the late 70s early 80s and the hair rig appeared as well as the Carp Society. Carp fishing was spreading like wildfire and baits were becoming more sophisticated. DDAPS waters were busy with the average age of Brooklands anglers decreasing and the membership of the club increasing. Word had spread about the quality of fish in Sutton and Horton Kirby therefore these waters were very popular and a DDAPS ticket was a very valuable piece of paper.
As DDAPS developed leases were taken out on lakes at Darenth (now Clearwater owned), Devon Road (now Cemex’s Sutton at Hone venue) as well as our current waters at Sutton at Hone and Horton Kirby. Sutton at Hone Lakes were purchased in 1965 with negotiations beginning in1959. Parts of the Rivers Beult and Lesser Tiese at Chainhurst were purchased in 1965 but the land was sold to the local farmer with the society retaining the fishing rights. Horton Kirby was purchased in 1971 and its current car park in 1978. The leases on both Darenth and Devon Road were lost when Leisure Sport Angling was set up by their owners. In addition the club now leases stretches of the River Medway at Postern Lane Tonbridge and River Beult at New Barn Farm.
So back to the 80s and 90s. More and more waters were now appearing and the Carp circuit was showing it fledgling roots. Brooklands didn’t exactly lose its popularity but the real Carp anglers now wanted to be separated from the rest of the mob and wanted to fish waters where distractions like kids and match anglers did not exist. For the many Carp orientated DDAPS members this meant two solutions, Sutton at Hone and Horton Kirby.
Sutton is divided into 2 lakes imaginatively called the Big and Little.
The Little Lake is a wonderful place, in my opinion better looking than the Big Lake and contains the better looking fish. It has some terrific hot spots, including lots of lovely over hanging bushes and trees and an area known as the Banjo, a snaggy bay which has recently been opened up a bit, making it more accessible by the club. If you can get this area to yourself, the fish can get in here in numbers; stealth like approach often brings a result. You either like or loathe small waters like this.
The Big Lake is not actually that big at, around nine acres but in comparison is quite an open lake. The fish in this lake are old timers and certainly like a fight to the net, regularly scooting off left or right to cheer your neighbours on either side! They were, until recently, mainly 20 lb plus fish and if you landed one it would usually break the 20lb barrier. However, recently, the club have had the sense to stock some new good looking Mark Simmonds fish. If you have not caught any of these Carp, they are wonderful shaped fish and I am pleased to say doing well in the Sutton lakes and will, I am sure, provide some big Lumps for the future.
The Big Lake has some of its own better-known Carp: Beauty, Captain Mannering, The Big Leather, The Leather, Dippy, The Armadillo, Sue and many more big 20s and low 30s. One fish, which is certainly on anyone’s wish list, is one of the two or three resident 30lb Commons, which is just stunning and rarely caught.
Horton Kirby has 4 lakes plus a section of the River Darent. The Viaduct and Westminster lakes both hold Carp in excess of 30lb. The other lakes are the Western and the Silt which contain good heads of various species. Kirby has been the scene of some serious fish stocking over the years with some good ‘Simmo’ Carp being stocked. These will grow on to make this venue a real hotspot for Carp anglers.
Coming up to date, the club is now ‘chaired’ by Craig Lyons, finalist for Carp Talk’s 2005 Angler of the Year. However the club is not completely Carp orientated and has a thriving match and pleasure scene. The club is actively seeking new waters and regularly stocks new fish of all species into its waters. However as a Carp organisation DDAPS is extremely successful and works along sides it own fishing partners which include The Tackle Box (Dartford), Mark11 Angling (Crayford), Dartford Angling, NAFAC, ACA, KACA and of course ECHO.
So there you have it, a 75 year old club which has seen the highs and lows of English Carp angling and has adapted to all the trends and swings and roundabouts. The club is still healthy from the point of view of membership and finance. There are still people waiting to join and having to wait in a queue for the pleasure of fishing the club’s waters. Brooklands still attracts many anglers on its day tickets and the club are working hard with the local council to return the water to its further glory and to address the weed problem that it’s suffered from in recent times.
When you look at the names of the anglers who have fished DDAPS waters it a roll call of the great. It includes: Gerry Savage, Kevin Maddocks, Fred Wilton, Martin Locke, Lee Jackson, Bob Morris, Robin Monday, Jim Gibbinson, Jack Hilton and Chris Ball.
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